Kobayakawa Kiyoshi

Kobayakawa Kiyoshi

Kobayakawa Kiyoshi

Kobayakawa Kiyoshi
Kobayakawa Kiyoshi

Kobayakawa Kiyoshi, (1896-1948)

Song of Quiet Night Thoughts (Seiyakashi)

bijin with lacquer box

ink and colors on silk; signed Kiyoshi with two seals, Kobayakawa and Shiranui, with lacquer outer-box and with tomobako signed Kiyoshi and sealed Kobayakawa; and titled Seiyakashi on the lid

overall 81 7/8 by 23 5/8 in., 208 by 60 cm
painting 48 7/8 by 9 5/8 in., 124 by 24.5 cm.

Born in Fukuoka, Kobayakawa Kiyoshi moved to Tokyo as a teenager to study Japanese-style painting with Kaburagi Kiyokata (1878-1972). Kiyoshi specialized in bijinga and exhibited his paintings with his fellow-students at Kyokokai (Homeland Society) and Bunten exhibitions. He began exhibiting his paintings with Teiten (organized by the Imperial Art Academy and sponsored by the Ministry of Education) in 1924 and became a regular exhibitor. In the 1920's Kiyoshi began collecting ukiyo-e and in the early 1930's he designed and self-published his own shin-hanga bijin prints, twelve of which were included in a landmark exhibition of woodblock prints held at the Toledo Museum of Art in 1936.

Kiyoshi's title for this painting refers to a famous Chinese poem commonly known in Japanese as Seiyashi (lit. 'Quiet Night Thoughts'), written by the immortal Chinese poet, Li Po (Li Bai, 701-762); although Kiyoshi inserts the extra kanji, 'ka' ('song') in the title.

Neru mae ni gekko wo miru
Utagauraraku wa kore chijyo no shimo
Atama wo agete sangetsu wo nozomi
Atama wo hiku tarete kokyo wo omou

This poem has been translated numerous times into English, but perhaps most famously, it was also included among a group of Li Po poems translated by the influential American poet, Ezra Pound (1885-1972), based, in part, on the notes of his good friend, the late Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908), an American professor who joined the faculty at the Imperial University in Tokyo in 1878 and who was one of the most influential figures advocating Nihonga in Japan.

On a Quiet Night
I saw the moonlight before my couch,
And wondered if it were not the frost on the ground.
I raised my head and looked out on the mountain moon,
I bowed my head and thought of my far-off home.
(Translated by Shigeyoshi Obata, The Works of Li Po, the Chinese Poet, 1923)

Night Thoughts
Before my bed there is bright moonlight
So that is seems like frost on the ground
Lifting my head I watch the bright moon
Lowering my head I dream that I'm home
(Translated by Arthur Cooper, Li Po and Tu Fu, 1973)

Calm Night Thought
The moon light is on the floor luminous
I thought it was frost, it was so white
Holding up head I look at mountain moon
Lowering head think of old home
(Translated by Ezra Pound, Cathay, 1915).

References:
Laurance P. Roberts, A Dictionary of Japanese Artists, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 84
Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975, University of Hawaii Press, 1992, p 70

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site last updated
May 13, 2019

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